The jubilance was evident in the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel at Xavier University of Louisiana April 15 as Knights of Peter Claver members, friends and family applauded male and female Xavier students as they became charter members of the first university-based council and court of the Knights of Peter Claver.
Father Etido Samuel Jerome, Xavier’s chaplain, celebrated an inaugural Mass for the new Council No. 403, which is open to any Catholic age 18 and older with an affiliation to Xavier University.
The Knights of Peter Claver is the oldest and largest historically black Catholic lay fraternal order, founded in Mobile, Alabama, in 1909 by the Josephites, who serve primarily in African-American Catholic parishes.
Currently headquartered in New Orleans, the organization has as its namesake St. Peter Claver, a Spanish priest who ministered to African slaves. Members are tasked to serve God by offering help to the sick and disabled.
Since Jan. 25, new members have been initiated into the chapter, which includes young men who are knights, and young women who comprise the Ladies Auxiliary Court of the Knights Council. Both work together on projects year-round. Xavier University President, Dr. C. Reynold Verret, was among those initiated.
Elected to lead Council and Court No. 403 were grand knight Lester Brown, a junior sociology major who was instrumental in member recruitment; and Rhea Harrison as grand lady.
Knights of Peter Claver Inc. associate director Percy Marchand said starting the Xavier chapter aligns with the call by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to meet the needs of the young adult church.
“There has been a noted void of activity and participation by young adults in our church – a disconnect during some of the most formative years of an individual’s life,” Marchand said. “The collegiate units will help our organization help the church reach and strengthen our relationship with this diminishing demographic. We have given the members a lot of freedom and authority to assist in the development of the unit and how it functions.”
This collegiate unit will assist Father Jerome and campus ministry and serve as leaders and role models on and off campus by hosting and participating in charitable and social activities and providing input on Catholic issues on campus.
Father Jerome, who celebrated the inaugural Mass with Deacon Martin Ahiaba from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, said forming the council is a response to Xavier’s Catholic students who expressed a need for a group to share their faith. He congratulated new members for taking the mantle of being the face of Christ and bringing joy, peace and love to those they encounter in life. “God has called our college students and made them witnesses to the Gospel,” he said.
New Ladies Auxiliary initiate Sarah Bertrand agreed.
“Before the Knights of Peter Claver came to campus, there was a lack of connection among the Catholic students on campus,” Bertrand said. “I was searching for a group of people with whom I could share the faith, attend Mass and strive for holiness. I am so glad to have found this community through the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver.”
Will be mentors to youth
Brown, the newly elected grand knight, said through their charitable works, the Knights of Peter Claver were the positive influence that kept him focused amid the negative influences he encountered growing up in West Philadelphia as a child. He is studying to be a guidance counselor.
“They were around the neighborhood, not just in church, but helping other people,” Brown said. “I’ve seen the Knights doing their own thing helping people. They were like father figures growing up.
“The Knights were influential guys. They didn’t just put wisdom on me and leave. They have always been part of my life. As a knight, I can dig deeper and relate to my religion, and now kids are looking up to me as a peer mentor. Leadership, service, compassion for people, social justice – everything I am preparing for in my profession – the Knights of Peter Claver fits in.”
He said the first major project of the new council will be to work with Loyola University to establish a Knights of Peter Claver council there.
“We are truly excited about what this new energy, passion, and desire to serve will bring to our noble order,” said James Ellis, Supreme Knight and CEO of the Knights of Peter Claver. “This is our future!”
For details, visit www.kofpc.org/xavier or contact the national office 821-4225.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.